Beyond the flickering white tent, the bare concrete floor, is a windowless concrete room. It once housed a kitchen and bathroom, but no one knows what happened to those. Now, Lebanon’s largest refugee camp is home to 650 families, mostly the displaced. Some of them seek shelter in the makeshift tent until the storm blows out. Others move to places with running water, but those supplies are far from enough. And still others camp in cars, from one neighboring village to the next. Some dare to live on the roof of cars, or on higher ground. Everyone is sleeping on the floor. “It’s a good sleeping area, but there’s no electricity,” a family from Syria said as they left the tent for the day, stretching out in the mud.
Every winter the camp heats up, as winter puts people into the open. Standing in the mud, a man from Syria called on the world to help. “There’s so much suffering,” he said, his voice wavering. “I don’t want to die. I want to go home.”
So what is Lebanon doing to accommodate these refugees? It could be argued that it’s too little, too late. A report published this month in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that Lebanon has deported more than 10,000 Syrian refugees, the vast majority of whom were nationals. In a statement to the newspaper, Lebanon’s information minister said the deported Syrians “mostly had criminal records, or received detention for entering illegally or attempting to escape to a third country.”
According to the Lebanese government, the country has accepted more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees since 2011, and offers of asylum are not barred by international law. However, recent months have seen a spate of arrests and deportations, particularly since the crackdowns on migrants and refugees by the U.S. and European countries.
One such deported man, Yaqub, told The New York Times of his experience: “I remember I woke up, and the police stormed the door. And I said, ‘Why are you coming?’ They said, ‘Because you are not a citizen of Lebanon.’ I said, ‘Wait, I lived here for 13 years.’ They said, ‘No, you are not.’ … It’s so painful. … You have lost your dignity. It’s not fair.”